Grit Smells Like Chocolate Chip Cookies!

What? You didn’t know that?  Well it does when you’re talking about Rm. 2o2 kiddos!!  And we know so because we’ve been using TONS of it while we work with Mrs. Berger on Fridays.

This week’s visit was about patterns.  We met together on the circle rug to try some out together first.  We learned about repeating patterns and growing patterns.

Then we got our spots, our personal office and got BUSY!  This was definitely something that was UP OUR ALLEYS and you could tell by the sound (it was silent!) and the smell (it smelled like cookies!–remember, that’s our grit!?).

 

Bike Rodeo 2016

I am pretty sure we have the best school ever, with teachers and community members who plan THE BEST things for our kiddos to do.  Case in point–last week we participated in a Bike Rodeo during our PE classes, where everybody brought their bikes to school (or shared if they didn’t have one!) and got to ride around the blacktop!  There was an obstacle course, and I heard that kids had a GREAT time going down the big hill on the driveway.  There were LOADS of kids who learned to ride without their training wheels, too!  Officer Stemmler (our School Resource Officer), Mrs. Morgan and Mrs. Moffitt were such troopers as they braved the sun and heat and helped our Roadrunner ride and ride and ride!  Thanks to all the parents to helped make it happen, too!

I wish I had pictures of the actual bike riding to share, but these will have to do.  Just imagine kids zooming around really fast (see, there’d be blurry pictures anyway) with giant smiles on their faces!

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#FDOFG–Got GRIT?

If you’ve read our Robinson Mission Statement (or if you’ve listened to a Robinson kiddo or teacher talking lately), then you know it mentions GRIT:

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and our kiddos know that you gotta have GRIT, make mistakes, try again and work hard in order to learn and be successful.  And so this being true, this is a topic that it is important to start talking about (and practice using!) early in the year.

We started the other day by talking about that the word GRIT meant to my new friends.  I was SUPER impressed with what they already knew; even as kindergarteners, these kiddos were learning about and applying this big deal concept.  Check out what they said during our first conversation:

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I was especially impressed by the way Mara explained GRIT as having “enough courage to do something even if it’s hard or you’re scared.”  It’s like being brave!

We used another fabulous classroom tool to practice this idea (and one that my friend and teammate, Mrs. Marks, reminded me about the other day): puzzles!  I had been collecting them all summer with the intention of bringing in new ones for this year’s class, so when I saw the AMAZING job Mrs. Mark’s first graders had done with working hard and being gritty with puzzles, I knew this was the way we’d be gritty, too!

Kiddos were able to choose a partner and a puzzle and they got busy.  We worked for a pretty big chunk of time, and while we worked pretty hard, not many of us finished–which is TOTALLY ok for our first try!

We did have one puzzle that was completed by Kaiden and Jack, though–check it out!

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Now, don’t get me wrong–this doesn’t mean the rest of us weren’t being very diligent puzzle-makers and working with our partners well, but I did hear many kiddos say “This is hard!” and “I can’t do this!” or “There are too many pieces in this puzzle!”  It seems like we need to keep working on our self-talk, our problem solving about what to do when things are hard, and even with what we can say instead of those negative explanations.  Later on this week we’ll going to start talking about YET, and I am sure that this will be helpful to my first grade friends.

We also debriefed on the activity, marking what was helpful and what was hard.  This will also guide our thinking the next time we do puzzles (or encounter anything that’s hard!).

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I can’t wait to share with you what happens the next time!

 

#FDOFG–What Do You Do With a Box?

I wrote about my goals for the first days of 1st grade last time I did this, mainly because I needed to refocus after having first days with 5th grade for so many years.  Yeah, obviously with 6YOs I was going to need to do something different.  What’s interesting to me, too, is that my first day this time was even different from just two years ago.

I had some pretty honest goals from my first time around, and this time it is still important to me that we learn each others’ names and learn the routines/procedures of the classroom, understand our school’s universals and know where things are…these are all big deals.  But this time around, I have some other ideas first. (Wow…this post has a lot of the word first in it…sorry!)

As I went into this year, I had been reading a lot about making sure that the first days of school are exciting and engaging for your students; showing them what is important to you as a teacher and how your classroom will be this year is the focus rather than just the “rules.”  So that got me thinking about what those first messages might be to my new friends, and those messages helped me plan our beginning moves together.

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I decided I wanted to try something a little crazy.  It was based on this book:

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I had read it over the summer with my own kids, and it gave me all sorts of great ideas of what might happen if I asked my kiddos the question “What do you do with a box?”  (As a side note, I actually kept reading the title as a question instead of what it actually was.  I didn’t realize until just the other day that it wasn’t right. I must have REALLY wanted to ask that question!).  I knew when I read it that this was going to be our first big activity together.  BEFORE we learned about the supplies, BEFORE we practiced how to use our classroom library, BEFORE we learned the Robinson Mindset, BEFORE we did just about anything else.  I wanted to send a strong message, and I also planned that problems would arise that we could use to teach many of those earlier things–like for example, how much tape to use, where the scissors are, how you have to put your things away before you move on, what to do when the time is up and you’re not finished, etc.

So…we read the book and go to work.  I told them the basic idea: they would pick a box, decide what they wanted to make with it and draw a design and materials list, then build it.  Unlike a typical design challenge, we weren’t really solving a problem and we weren’t planning a redesign/rebuild, but it gave them the feel for doing something BIG early in the year.  It matched up to many of the messages I wanted to send my new friends.

Before lunch, kiddos chose their box (I wish I had taken a picture–there were loads of different sizes) and then got busy with their designs.  As a side note, I also didn’t stress that they had to have a drawing, had to have a materials list, had to have a solid plan…but most kiddos did.  Those AMAZING kindergarten teachers did a super job of leading kiddos down this design road and they knew just what to do.

We talked as a team about what we would/could use, and set the time limit of 25 minutes.  We set the timer and we got busy!!  Check out what it looked like as we worked:

It was SO FUN to see what kiddos did with their boxes.  Some kids planned and made something that you could put things into, and some made it into something else besides a container.  Yes, there were some kids who said “This is HARD!”, but were able to work through their struggles and move on.  Kids helped kids, I asked questions and made suggestions, and was able to get to know kiddos a little bit as we worked and talked, as well as by what they decided to make from their box.  I didn’t get to the part where we could explain and share with our class about what we made, and I don’t have pictures of each one separately, but I do have a pic of them all piled on the rug.  It looked pretty cool and kids were pretty proud:

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One thing we did have time for was to debrief on what they thought about how it went.  I had planned to introduce the protocol of Plusses and Deltas, and they did a great job.  Check out what they noticed:

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I was SO IMPRESSED with how well they worked, and I was happily surprised and pleased by what they were able to put on the “plusses” side.  And look–the deltas will be SUPER EASY to fix.  The “not helping” part really was when a friend asked someone for help and they were busy working on their own creation and didn’t want to be interrupted.  We worked through what words they could use instead of just saying “no, I can’t help you.”  The chairs and cleaning up was simply because of the directions I gave at the end of our work time, not that they didn’t know how or that they should do it.  Impressive, Rm. 202 friends.

Looking back, I am so glad I took the leap to do something crazy, not knowing what would actually happen with first graders on the first day after we’d been together for just a few hours.  They did great, I sent some positive messages and we started our year off with a BANG!!

Students: What did you like about our box challenge?  What did you learn?  What would you do differently next time?  Did you have fun??

Parents: What did your kiddo tell you about their box creation?  What did they tell you about the book, or what they thought of the activity?

Teachers: What are your goals for a new year?  First days?  What is your usual “first” activity?

 

Mystery Skype–For Real!

You might remember that last year we prepared for a Mystery Skype by Skyping with Ms. Turken’s class INSIDE of our school.  We were ready and had a plan, but then our Skype that we had scheduled fell through.  Somehow we didn’t get another on the books until this year.  So a week or so ago we did a Mystery NUMBER Skype with Ms. Bartin’s class at Keysor–the next step above someone in our school is in our school district. hee hee

Then, when I tweeted about how much fun we’d had, I asked for any takers on another Mystery Skype.  We quickly got a bite from Mrs. LaRose’s 2nd graders!  We quickly put a day and time on the schedule and I got busy getting my class ready for the big time.

Since a few years ago when I did this with 5th graders, I have made some new “friends” on Twitter and knew that they would be the right ones to go to for help.  Paul Solarz, 5th grade teacher extraordinaire and author of Learn Like a Pirate has some GREAT Mystery Skype resources, and I used many of them to get us prepared for our conversation.

It started with determining our jobs.  While Mr. Solarz has 5th graders and does most of his Mystery Skype work online, we were still able to use many of their listed jobs, modified a little to fit our needs.

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While I think that Mr. Solarz assigns jobs, we had a meeting before we got started and I explained each job, then we decided who should do each one.  If more than the allotted number wanted a specific job, kiddos had to find a way to decide who should do it (many of them played rock-paper-scissors to get to a decision).  In the end, we agreed that the right people were in the right jobs, based on their strengths and personalities.

I was excited (as were they) and even though I had done this many times before, I really didn’t know what to expect because I hadn’t done it with this format in any other session previously.  Because we were ready a little early (ok, I did that on purpose), we were able to practice.  We were able to run through the whole deal twice, with me pretending to be the other class and them trying out their assigned jobs (thanks, Mr. Solarz for that idea–it was SUPER helpful!).  First I was in Illinois (Chicago, actually) and then I was in Florida (ok, fine–Orlando).  If you know me at all, you could probably guess those would have been my choices.  Ok, fine, they probably had a little head start on that, too.  Anyway…

While we were working, I was surprised with how busy everyone was, how well they worked together and how quiet but bustling the room was!  We were even able to host a few teachers who wanted to see what this whole Mystery Skype thing was about without any real trouble.  Thanks for Ja’Mia and Landen for submitting the pictures for this post, and for Khalani for taking the video.

Check out our archives from our first-ever REAL Mystery Skype!

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After we were finished, we sat down to debrief and it was great how excited they all still were–I had them turn and talk so everyone could get all their thoughts out, then they shared some with me.  Here is a little of what kiddos said, some positive and some things we might change:

I liked holding up the “Good job” sign, it made me feel great to see everyone focusing, learning and doing the right thing! -Sara

I thought it was fun and I really wanted to do a good job to help out our class! -Thomas

I liked that I helped find Vermont! -Amber

I didn’t like walking around the whole time. -Landen

I liked my job because I got to remind people. -Ella Marie

I thought it was tricky trying to find a question.  -Emily

I liked it when Nate and Charlie asked about the time zone. -Lawrence

I like that my behavior was good.  I got a “good job” card and I really wanted to do my very best for our class! -Jacob

I liked being a greeter.  I was good at that job because I am friendly. -Joshua

I liked learning things that I didn’t know about our state. -Ava

I liked learning about maps. -Evan

We also debriefed on jobs.  The consensus was that there were too many researchers, and that we needed to add a couple of new ones: Tweeters and Closers.  Mrs. Sisul, our principal, texted me during our session and asked that I make sure to Tweet since she couldn’t make it and I could not believe that I hadn’t even thought about it!  We will definitely find some friends to do that next time, as well as choose two friendly kiddos to close the call and say thanks and good bye.  🙂

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One more thing…it’s very long and it’s kind of shaky–it’s our first time, after all–but I think it gives a great example of all the hustle, bustle and hard work that was happening during our Mystery Skype.  We’d love to hear what you think, especially if you notice anything or have any questions.

Who’s in YOUR Village?

I don’t even remember when I first heard that saying “It takes a village…,” but goodness knows I live it and breathe it in so many ways at this point in my life.  Whether that means my personal life at home with kids or my professional life at school with my other kids (which is what this post is about), I could definitely not do it all alone.

So when I read someone else’s post a few months ago, it got me asking and answering that question “Who’s in YOUR village?” for myself.  And this is my answer.  At least for this season of life. 🙂

And so a few words for the few that help make my school life bearable and even fun!

1.) My hubby

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Ok, so there’s about a thousand things I could say about why I love this guy and how he helps make my life possible, but two of the biggest reasons are that he gets me and he gets my job. We’ve been together (between dating and being married) for 23 years and it’s been super amazing how we’ve both grown over the years into new and different people, but have grown in the same direction.  I love that he gets my weird moods and what that “thinking face” I make means, and how he knows just when I need him to bring me a Diet Dr. Pepper (and he does this without being asked–love it!).  Also, he’s a teacher, so while there’s WAY too much shop talk at our house, he can TOTALLY relate to lesson plans, report cards, parent conferences (from both sides now!), how the school week really starts (and the weekend really ends! :() on Sunday about 5 when we have to start getting ready for school again, and that some times I just need to either 1) talk to NO ONE for a while when I get home or 2) talk to an ADULT and have a conversation with someone other than an 8YO.  Anyhow, he’s kind of a catch and I’m really lucky that he’s on my team. 🙂 Love you, Grant!

2.) My friends

It’s always to hard when you start to write a list, because two things usually happen: you leave someone/something off because you mean to, or you leave someone/something off inadvertently.  I’m not really sure which is worse, because especially when you’re listing friends (which, ok, doesn’t usually happen after high school) it seems harsh.  And now I’m going to write a list.  And hope that it doesn’t make anybody upset. Oh, and it’s in no specific order. 🙂

IMG_0143 2.JPGShannon–What can I say except God put her in my life at just the right time and the friendship that has blossomed in the last two years has been nothing short of amazing.  Besides being an amazing teacher, she’s kind, loving, understanding, funny and challenges me in a respectful way.  Shannon cares about me as a person as much as an educator and takes such interest in my life, regardless of the topic.  What’s important to me is important to her, too.  She understands that I might do things in a different way than everyone else (and she would sometimes, too!), that I have to think (often for a llloooonnnggg time) before I can answer with my opinion or ideas, and she accepts and love me for those things.  She has the most intense belief in her students as learners and works to make them better people when they leave her classroom (and I know this firsthand–she was my son’s teacher and he blossomed in her care!).  She inspires me to be a better teacher just by doing what she naturally does. It makes TOTAL sense that her last name is Appelbaum, because she truly does plant seeds and grow children.

Rachael–IMG_3020Yeah, I know that’s a picture of a dog.  It’s Rosie, actually, but it’s the only picture Rae would let me post of her.  Aside from that silliness, Rachael is a pretty fabulous person. 🙂  She also came into my life at a perfect time; after being an acquaintance for a very long time, our paths finally crossed on a teaching team.  We quickly found out we have much in common (and much that we don’t because she’s so much nicer, calmer, and more considerate than me, LOL), and that we get along really well.  One of my favorite things about her is how she loves on my kids; Allie and Riley love her bunches and love to spend time with her as much as I do.  She asks thoughtful questions, encourages at just the right time in the right way, and has probably the biggest heart of anyone I know.  She has a way of seeing such good and potential in people (little people, too!) and inspires me to be a better version of me.  It’s true when she says she’s for students.

3.) My team

1443305819373I still laugh about the story behind this picture.  It literally happened because as we were starting the day one morning someone said, “Hey, this is the first time we’ve all been in the same place together in a long time!” (Guess it had been a busy week!).  I said, “Well then grab a camera!” and of course, a selfie followed.  No, it’s not the best picture of any of us, but it speaks to a moment in time and for sure shows the joy that’s on our faces each day when we’re at school. No, every day is not perfect, but for sure we work through those rocky parts together.  This is my first year on this team, and it was well established before I came into it.  In many ways this scared me, as I am probably not what you’d call an “established” person; I tend to fly by the seat of my pants, make plans and change them, respond to the moment and see what happens–well at least at school I do. LOL  Instead of being scary, though, the organization, structure and flow of the way our team works has added so much to the way I teach and learn.  We each bring something different to the table (including unit plans for each subject that each one of us is responsible for creating and then sharing with everyone else), and there is always laughter when we’re together.  We’re different in many ways and that works so well.  I love Team Tuesday lunches, even though it took me until January to remember to have lunch there that day so I could join in; I love that someone else sends copies for me to the copy center because I don’t usually think that far ahead; I love that these ladies think so fondly of everyone at our school and send holiday cards to ALL of the support staff (I never knew 2nd grade did this!); I love that they understand and respect how I might not always be the first to follow the crowd.  I will get there eventually–usually–but might also put my own twist or spin on something and that is ok.  We care about each other, talk about many things other than school, and have each others’ backs.  That’s good for the soul. 🙂

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 4.) My kiddos (and their families!)

These are the friends I’m here for, after all, right?  These kiddos are perhaps some of the best little people I’ve met in a long time!  This is my first (well, and second since we’ve been together for 2 years) class of primary students for almost 10 years and they’ve been a breath of fresh air.  I had forgotten how eager young minds can be to learn new things, how they come into pretty much everything with zest and anticipation and I love how these learners are willing to try each new and kooky thing I suggest we do.  Even better than that, they have some super ideas of their own that I think they know and trust that I will in turn be willing to let them try.  We are truly a big, happy family (who sometimes bicker like siblings LOL), and we’re in this together.  And I can’t mention these amazing students without of course mentioning their families.  The support and love I get from them is unmatchable, and the way they help and support their kiddos is inspiring.  I am lucky.

5.) Robinson

As much as I have these few close people on my team to hold me up, I can truly do what I do because of WHERE I do it.  My school (because of our principal and the rest of the staff) is truly a magical place to work and play everyday.  It’s been my home for the last 16 years, and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.  While the teachers have changed over the time I’ve been teaching there, the culture and “feel” of our school remains the same because our mission remains constant: we’re here for our kids and we are willing to do whatever it takes to help each and every one learn.  We care about kids–all of them and the whole child–and it shows.  There is always mention of how welcoming and warm our building is, and it’s definitely not because of the 1930s era heating system (I kid).  You can feel the warmth and love that resonates from all the people who work and learn inside the walls of 803 S. Couch.

So…who’s in YOUR village?

Dot Day 2015

A  little while ago we celebrated a special day along with many thousands of other kids and teachers around the world: Dot Day. The idea is simple: read and enjoy the book The Dot with your class and then explore the story creatively–in any way you want.  Easy peasey, right?  Sign us up!!

Screenshot 2015-10-11 20.25.47So we read the story, and talked about what it meant to “make your mark.”  And since we’re Roadrunners, kiddos brought up the ideas of grit, growth mindset and making mistakes.  Who knew there was so much to learn in a story about a girl and a painting?  Ok, so I knew it was all in there. Hee hee.  I’m just super impressed that my students came up with it before I even told them.  Way to go, Rm. 202 friends!

After we were done reading and talking, I set them loose to work their magic.  With paint.  Or markers.  Or colored pencils, or crayons–whatever they wanted to use to show their creativity was fine by me.  And show us they did!

Check it out:

We weren’t done there, though.  Nope.  Had to do some writing about it, of course!  So kiddos were given a sheet to help them think through how they would explain their work.  Basically I wanted to give kiddos the support with sentence starters (if they needed it), as well as the structure of understanding what they could actually explain about the process (sometimes 2nd graders just want to tell you one sentence and be done).

Kiddos were instructed to complete a rough draft (which was made of four parts: When I read The Dot, it made me think of….; So I decided to make…; I used…; and I want to make my mark by…).  On the second day of work we had to have a conversation about what it meant to be “done,” because like I mentioned before, some kiddos thought just saying “I used paint” would be a thorough explanation of what they did.  I showed them my sheet–all filled out–and we discussed the thinking I did in order to decide what to say, as well as how to use the organizer correctly.  The lesson here was simple: if you are given 4 lines to write your ideas upon, then you should write 4 lines of words.  Well, it seemed simple at least, but was not so obvious as you might think.  Once they finally had a rough draft, they were then to work by themselves or with their elbow partner to revise and edit their work before creating their final draft on special “Dot” paper.  This was perfectly tied into the writing cycle we were working through and was a nice picture of how writing doesn’t just happen during one set time of day.

It took us a week to all finish our writing, and then we were ready to share.  I was happy to see how well it all fit in our hallway, using the windows and the one vertical part of the wall.  Perfect space-wise, and perfect because we (and everyone who walks through our hallway) get to be inspired by our dots every day!

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